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Nuclear waste in Russia's rivers

Project Duration:
July 2006 - April 2007
Project Cost:
9870
Implementation Partners:
Citizens' Center for Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Quant Ltd.
Location:
Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Region:
Eastern Europe & Central Asia,
Pollutants:
Weapons Manufacturing, Radioactivity
Potentially affected people:
64,000

Problem

Project Completion Report (PDF)

During its 30 years of operation, the mining and chemical Combine at Zheleznogorsk discharged its cooling water contaminated with radioactive wastes directly into the Yenisei River. Eventually, 300 kilometres along the river were officially declared an environmental disaster zone based on the amount of contamination over that time. The village of Bolshoi Balchug lies immediately downstream from the plant, and at least 64,000 are potentially affected by radionuclides like plutonium-239, cesium-136, and strontium-90.
 
The main goal of the project was to improve radiation situation in the river bank zone in the Bolshoi Balchug community. Specialists of the Citizens` Center on Nuclear Non- Proliferation have examined the Bolshoi Balchug bank. All "hot" particles found together with surrounding soil were excavated from the riverbank and buried in a proper radioactive waste landfill.

Solution

All measurements were made with dosimetric instruments verified at the state organizations scintillation survey radiometer SRP-68-01 and dosemeter DRG-01T.  The survey has found 5 highly radioactive "hot" particles with dose rate intensity on the surface of these particles:
 
#1 - 9320 microRoentgen/hour.  
#2 - 8844 microRoentgen/hour.  
#3 - 6143 microRoentgen/hour.
#4 - 8739 microRoentgen/hour.  
#5 - 7161 microRoentgen/hour.
 
The places of discovery of "hot" particles were plotted on a topographic map.  The 300 kilometers along the river were declared an environmental disaster zone, after soil and sediment samples collected from the area showed radiation levels hundreds of times higher than permissible levels.
 
The main goal of the project was to mitigate the radiation in the river bank zone in Bolshoi Balchug community. The project included (i) an independent radiological survey of the river bank; (ii) detection and extraction of active “hot” particles from the soil; (iii) informing the population and authorities of Krasnoyarsk region about radiation pollution of the territory in Bolshoi Balchug community through mass media; (iv) bringing results of independent survey to the attention of local authorities; (v) making the Mining-Chemical Combine perform a rehabilitation of polluted areas through public response in mass media and governmental agencies.  

Results

During the surveying period, Blacksmith and CCNN discovered five sites with particularly hazardous radiation intensities. 

At each of those sites, all of the radioactive soil was safely extracted and placed into sealed lead containers.  The containers were then handed off to a specialized hazardous waste handling contractor, Quant Ltd., for permanent storage. 

Both the surveys, the soil extraction, and the final disposal were all widely covered in local print and broadcast media, helping to raise public awareness of potential safety risk.

Follow Up

In the period from September 14 to October 4, 2006 specialists of the Citizens` Center on Nuclear Non-Proliferation examined an area of the Bolshoi Balchug bank longer than 14 km, and up to 50 km wide. All measurements were made with dosimetric instruments verified at the state organizations scintillation survey radiometer SRP-68-01 and dosemeter DRG-01T.  
 
All "hot" particles found together with surrounding soil were taken from the soil and placed into a lead container. On November 22, 2006 the “hot” particles were handed over to a specialized organization "Quant" Ltd for proper disposal.